Spread the Harvest
Gardening has had a crucial role in the history of Sustainable Food Center. The beginning of Austin Community Gardens in 1975 was a four-acre piece of land with 15 garden plots on East 51st Street. This nonprofit merged with Sustainable Food Center in 2001, and for 20 years, our organization has been a leading force in providing gardening education and resources for our Central Texas community.
In 1975, the city of Austin had almost half a million residents; now, the metropolitan area houses close to 3 million people. Therefore, our need for regionally and sustainably produced food has increased and is more dire than ever. Our approach to transforming our food system requires broader and bolder approaches.
Since 2002, the Spread the Harvest (STH) project has helped Austin residents grow and share healthy food by providing free gardening resources, including seeds, compost, plants, and a book lending library. We have also provided a variety of free gardening classes in English and Spanish, both at community host sites and online.
During our last STH giveaway event in March 2022, we were able to serve 406 gardens! Resources went to gardeners all over Central Texas, not just within Austin city limits. Thanks to staff and interpreters, we have been able to engage participants in the program who speak Spanish, Arabic, Burmese, and Nepali.
We are appreciative of what we have accomplished together. Our records show that we have served 418 different school and group gardens and 3461 home gardeners over the years. Last year alone, STH reached 2177 low-income home gardeners and 41,233 school and group gardeners. An additional 177 community members across Central Texas attended virtual Introduction to Food Gardening classes last year.
A NEW VISION
In 2018, SFC embarked on a rigorous and in-depth nine-month visioning process that resulted in a new mission and strategic goals. We realized that to transform the food system to nourish our health, land, and livelihood—our new mission—we needed to concentrate our efforts and resources on system-wide initiatives that will address the looming food scarcity challenges facing communities throughout the state of Texas.
Our strategic goals urge us to focus on scalable and transformative initiatives that address small- to mid-size farm production and viability, build regional food infrastructures, increase wholesale demand, and ensure food access, affordability, and knowledge.
Therefore, our final Spread the Harvest Resource Giveaway Day will take place in September 2022. Our final gardening classes were held in spring 2022.
The goal of STH was to increase the availability of and physical access to healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate, locally grown fruits and vegetables for Central Texans by encouraging and enabling community members to cultivate successful small-scale food gardens. We believe that we have contributed significantly to this goal and hope that participants and member organizations will continue to garden and share their harvest with their communities.
To facilitate the replication of this project and encourage the continuation of gardening initiatives, SFC will make the following resources available in digital format at no cost to community members and organizations:
We join our partners, volunteers, and community members in celebrating the vital role that local gardens play in helping our communities have access to fresh and nutritious foods. We estimate that Austin residents harvest 100,000 pounds of organic produce each year in community gardens. We’ve come a long way from the 15 garden plots we started in 1975!
It is also encouraging to see more robust municipal and organizational support for gardening education and collaborative initiatives. We are thankful for the continued support we have received from Travis County and Central Texas Food Bank, as well as all the community organizations, schools, nonprofits, and volunteers that helped make this project possible throughout the years.
We believe that food is a human right and that the health of our planet and future generations are at stake. Change can only come if we purposefully collaborate and co-create with the community and our partners so food consumers and producers can access resources, support, and connections to build a healthy, just, and equitable food system.
We invite you to reach out to us with any questions regarding our new mission and initiatives, and we hope to continue to advocate together for transformational change.